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Why are you phased by the light bulb phase out?

Smashed energy-saving light bulb

When we wrote about the phase out of incandescent light bulbs recently, the response was overwhelming. So what got people’s backs up? I trawled through hundreds of comments to pick out the main complaints…

Your complaints ranged from cost to being left with less choice. Having tested energy-saving bulbs for the latest issue of Which? magazine, this topic is fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d try and tackle each of these issues one by one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t address all the issues raised in our previous Conversation. Others included claims that energy-savings bulbs aren’t as bright, can’t be used with dimmer switches and don’t always fit light fittings.

1. Energy-saving bulbs don’t last as long as claimed

This can definitely be true if you have a bulb that’s poor for longevity, or doesn’t like being switched on and off frequently. The regulations only require 50% of a bulb’s sample to achieve the claimed lifetime – cold comfort if your bulb is in the half that didn’t.

Which? energy-saving light bulb tests show big differences between bulbs in terms of how long they last and how they cope with being switched on and off. We test three samples of each bulb and, at worst, all three fail long before our 30,000 on/off switching test is over. The best of the bulbs have all three samples working at the end of the test.

It’s the same with longevity – the top performers’ samples survive 5,000 hours continuously turned on – the equivalent of five years’ use. But poor performers will see some, or even all, samples fail before that.

2. Health side-effects including migraines, UV radiation and mercury

The most common type of energy-saving bulb, CFLs, do contain mercury, but only a small amount. An average CFL has no more than five milligrams – and would fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen. Breakages are easily dealt with if a bulb breaks, as detailed in our advice guide.

UV radiation is only potentially a problem if you sit very close (within a few centimetres) of a CFL-type bulb for prolonged periods. For migraine sufferers, using a different type of energy-saving bulb altogether (i.e. a halogen or an LED) or using a CFL with an outer surface as well as an inner (i.e. not a stick-shaped one), will also help.

3. Loss of heating from traditional incandescent bulbs

Incandescent bulbs did waste 85% of their energy as heat, but this is still a very small amount – the heating effect on any room would be negligible. Even using a higher-powered bulb of 100W would only give you around 85W of heat.

Compare that to a typical fan heater rating of 2kW and factor in that many of the bulbs will be in exactly the wrong place to heat a room – on the ceiling – and incandescents seem to be an inefficient method of heating!

4. No overall saving of energy

Some of you were concerned about the energy used to manufacture energy-saving light bulbs, but a 2009 Defra study found that incandescent bulbs had the highest environmental impact of all types of bulbs. That’s because “energy in use” is the key factor, and incandescents are much less efficient than energy-saving bulbs.

Our recent light bulb tests showed the same trait – that the most efficient bulbs were also the most environmentally friendly over the whole lifecycle of production and disposal, because energy used while the bulb is on is the most important factor.

5. Don’t tell us what to buy, give us a choice

It’s obviously annoying for a lot of people not to have a choice of which bulb to buy. But the phase-out is a “done deal” and although it forces us to buy only certain types of light bulb it does force us towards bulbs that will save us money and use less energy.

6. Energy-saving light bulbs are more expensive

The savings from energy-saving bulbs are nothing like as obvious as the extra cost of buying them in the first place, but they will save you money in the end.

We’re looking at ways to calculate payback times for all the bulbs we show test results for. In the meantime, any energy-saving bulb should more than pay for itself, but the amount will depend on various factors, especially how long it lasts.

Based on the bulb being on for 2.7 hours per day and electricity costing 14.5p per KWh, we calculate a 100W incandescent bulb costs around £14 to run for a year. An equivalent CFL energy-saver (such as the Osram Dulux Superstar 30W) would cost £3 or £4 in the same conditions, depending on how much light it emitted (watts being only a measure of how much power you pay to put in, not how much light you’re getting out).

7. CFLs are hard to dispose of

It’s true that disposing of CFLs isn’t as easy as incandescents – you can’t just chuck them in the bin because of the mercury. But we’re used to recycling much of our waste now, so isn’t it just a mind shift that’s needed to get into the habit of recycling bulbs too?

Recycling CFLs can be done at any Ikea, Homebase, Robert Dyas, 250 larger Sainsbury’s or at council facilities. Or you can find your nearest recycling points by typing in your postcode on Recolight on Recycle Now.

Do my responses make any difference to your view on the light bulb phase out? Do you think the phase out is all bad news or can you see some positives to the change?


In the November issue of Which in the article “Test Lab Light Bulbs”, the pictures of all 3 bulbs show them as “screw” fittings instead of the usual “bayonet” fitting–why, when most households have the bayonet fittings.

Screw fittings lamps are now quite common in the UK, which means that shops have to stock both bayonet cap and screw cap lamps. We have also got some lamps available with small bayonet and small screw caps. Fair enough to have small caps on small bulbs but we don’t really need the same size lamp with large and small caps, meaning that the same lamp is available with four alternative caps.

I have seen bulbs and CFLs thrown out because they don’t have the correct cap size and a lot of people received free CFLs with inappropriate caps from energy suppliers, etc. These are probably gathering dust if they have not been thrown out. What a wasteful society we live in.

In the 50s and 60s cars used some screw-fitting bulbs but they were phased out because vibration sometimes caused them to unscrew. They were replaced by bayonet and push-in bulbs. I have heard of domestic screw-fitting lamps working loose as a result of heating and cooling, but it does not appear to be a common problem.

Speaking with my qualified elecrtician’s hat on, corectly wired and either corectly switched or double-pole switched screw fittings are marginally safer than bayonet fittings, however incorrectly wired / switched screw fittings are very significantly more dagerous than bayonet fittings and can lead to exposed parts of a fitted bulb to be live even when the switch is off. For that reason I personally abhor the increasing use of screw fittings in domestic lighting.

Setting that aside, as it’s certainly off-topic for the convo, I noticed years ago that it is as good as impossible to buy a screw fitting lamp holder to fit on a pendant cord in a standard domestic fitting but a significant number of imported, often far-eastern or eastern-european made, lights have screw fittings. I don’t doubt that this accounts for the number of screw fitting lights available in the cheaper shops and by mail order, and in turn accounts for a significnat increase in the demand for screw fitting bulbs.

All that said, and agreeing with Wavechange’s points above, I do entirely agree with G&L and in fact, if I had not thought that my list of gripes about Which?’s tests was already far too long, I would have made the same comment myself much further up this convo about 2 weeks ago. The fact that Which? show mainly screw fitting bulbs in their report, and have tested some types in screw fitting only, is another aspect of the remark I made about Which? testing lamps that few of us can get or need to use, and not testing the majority of types that are commonly available in every high street store and corner shop and are required for most fittings / uses.

On the basis that we have had shuttered sockets since the days of round pin plugs and shrouded pins on plugs since the 1980s, I wonder why we are still using lamp holders that children and adults can poke their fingers into. Even as a teenager I realised that these new-fangled fluorescent tubes with small pins were much safer than the previous versions which had bayonet caps (I don’t think many will remember them).

Hopefully LED technology will result in table lamps, desk lamps etc. that ensure that inquisitive children cannot electrocute themselves.

Wavechange wrote: “new-fangled fluorescent tubes with small pins were much safer than the previous versions which had bayonet caps (I don’t think many will remember them).”

I do!!! 🙂

My dad brought two ancient fittings with 6 foot tubes with bayonet cap ends from Henry Boot where he worked way back in the 1970’s when they had been taken out of the garage at head office and replaced with new bi-pin fittings.
The two old ones are still in dad’s workshop (having out-lived dad by some 16 years) and they still work.
Granted it takes about 5 minutes for the tubes to actually flicker into life and in cool weather it takes a good 30 minutes to reach full brightness (and in winter they just don’t start at all!).
The fittings weigh heaven knows what – probably about a stone, maybe more, each – mainly due to the huge steel ballast but also down to the 1/16th inch thick steel the case is made of and the huge, thick, early-plastic shades on them.
So there you go: still further proof that well-made fluorescent lighting lasts decades! I bet the two fittings in dad’s workshop are at the very least 1940’s, maybe earlier and the tubes were the ones in them when he brought hem home about 1974, and were not brand new tubes then.

Regarding the finger-poking capacity of light bulb holders, I can easily answer the question as to why they have not been super-ceded: money! There is little cost in making standard bayonet bulb holders and scarce little extra cost on E27 screw fittings, but isolating fittings like the MK safety ones cost far more to make. Customers are not prepared to pay much more to buy them though, so the mark up on advanced fittings like the MK is small and the mark up on standard ones is massive. More profit for the shops, more profit for the manufacturers, more tax for the government.

And if a few kids get electric shocks on the way, well it’s a price worth paying if the manufacturer’s MD gets a new Yacht this year or Cameron and Clegg use the tax to stave off the economic crash a few hours longer.

(I’m not cynical at all …………….)

The early fluorescent fittings also had glass starters with small bayonet cap bases, just right for small fingers. What replaced them was much safer, albeit rather unreliable.

The MK switching lampholders might be OK with CFLs but I have seen ones that have been destroyed by the heat of incandescent bulbs.

For the benefit of Dave and anyone else not bored to death with discussion about CFLs……

I have been looking for peer reviewed information about environmental impact assessment for CFLs compared with incandescent bulbs. Here is the first page of a recent review on the subject, which contains the abstract:

It compares four lighting technologies (CFL, fluorescent, halogen and incandescent. To quote from the abstract: “It was also shown that the environmental break-even point of the gas- discharge lamps is reached long before the end of their expected life-span.”

I’ve read the full paper thanks to university access privileges. I hate giving references to information that is not in freely available but I have not found detailed studies on websites.

Mike says:
7 November 2011

I use a photo-cell switch to turn on and off a dusk-to-dawn security light on my house. I have yet to find energy saving bulbs that will be able to replace my dwindling supply on incandescent bulbs. I have tried using CFL and halogen lamps, but they don’t work. As LED lamps don’t work with dimmers, I doubt that they will in my application. What do you think, and do you have a solution?

@Mike: Sadly I think the quick, but completely unsatisfactory, answer to your question is that there is no satisfactory solution at present.

I don’t understand why a halogen bulb does not work, since these are incandescent bulbs that are slightly more efficient because they operate at a higher temperature. The surge current is higher for halogen bulbs so it wise to go for a lower wattage lamp, which will be brighter than the equivalent ordinary bulb. That’s if you can persuade it to work.

Dave has pointed out that some LED bulbs are marked as unsuitable for dimmers, but some claim to work.

Glynteg says:
16 November 2011

From my experience I am not convinced about most of the claims made for energy saving light bulbs.
Here are some examples.
A few years ago we installed an 11W energy saving bulb in the light outside our front door. It was so poor when first switched on that we had to switch it on at least 10mins before we needed it to get a reasonable amount of light. It then stopped working after a very short life span as we only used it when we went out on dark evenings or if we were expecting visitors. We have replaced it with an incandescent bulb.
On 11.08.11 we installed 5 x 3 spotlight bars in our kitchen. They had 11W GU10 bulbs. Again, these take an age to come on fully (about 10mins for full effect). After 3 months use 4 out of the 15 bulbs have failed – a failure rate of >25%!!! They have been used at most for 200hrs – they are advertised at lasting for 10 years at 1,000 hrs per year. The bulbs cost £9 each – not exactly a saving!
We have had at least 4 other failures so we are not impressed. Additionally, none of the lighs are suitable for reading – they just do not thrown out suffiecient light not to strain your eyes.
Having read the conclusions of the Which? tests, I conclude that these bulbs will last a long time if you don’t switch them on. Otherwise they are a waste of money.

LOL! I had to laugh, not unkindly I hope, at the conclusion that Glynteg has drawn: “I conclude that these bulbs will last a long time if you don’t switch them on. Otherwise they are a waste of money”. I absolutely agree!!!!

More seriously, Glynteg’s experience with the GU10’s is pretty terrible, but according the Which’s research and the laws (as I understand them) it’s considered to be a GOOD result as 49% of bulbs can fail early without any come back on the manufacturers, and Glynteg has only had a 25% failure rate (so far).

It’s nothing but legalised fraud: if a small company or individual made a product, any product, and 49% of the product failed to do what was claimed, there would be hell to pay and Trading Standards would be quoting the sale of goods act left right and centre.

Anyway, it’s all been said before, and Which? still don’t seem to think it’s a big issue (or at least they’re not saying anything to show they do) so I guess we all just have to stockpile incandescents, use halogens or else put up with being conned again and again. 🙁

The reliability of spotlight CFLs seems to be poor and Glynteg’s experience with GU10 CFLs is similar to what others have reported in Amazon’s product reviews, for example. I am not surprised because trying to cram the lamp and electronics into such a small space means that the electronics will be overheated. Not a clever design, and the GU10 CFL is substantially longer than the GU10 halogen bulb it replaces. I look forward to Which? testing GU10 CFLs and I will be surprised if they find any that are worth buying.

I’m not impressed by halogen GU10’s either. They don’t seem to last much longer than an old incandescent bulbs and they are very good at blowing dimmers.

Richard English says:
19 November 2011

I changed all my incandescent bulbs for flourescents as soon as I moved into my present house – about 6 years ago. A couple of them have failed in that time – a far lesser rate of failure than incandescents.

My main complaint about compact flourescents is simply that they are not bright enough in many cases and, sadly, the solution we once had available – that of using an adaptor to enable the use of two or three bulbs in one lampholder – is no longer available since these are no longer made – although I have been unable to find out why. There is a solution that I have adopted – although it is cumbersome.

In Canada and the USA two-way adaptors are readily available although they are, of course, Edison Screw fittings. But it is possible to buy bayonet to ES adaptors and, as has been mentioned here, ES lamps are now readily available. So now I have two CFLs in one lampholder, thus doubling the light output. Of course, it does mean that you have to buy the adaptors from the USA or Canada (easy for me as I visit each country at least annually) – but I assume they could be bought online easily enough and posted.

If anyone could tell me the reason why these handy adaptors have been withdrawn from sale in the UK (no doubt due to our “Regs”) I would like to know it. After all, if they are safe in Canada and the USA – where the current drawn is twice what it is in the UK – then they should be safe enough here. Indeed, my three installations have given me no trouble at all in the two years since I installed them.

Canada and the USA use 110V rather than 230V mains, so electrical safety is probably more relaxed.

Two-way bayonet adapters were used in the early part of the 20th century to connect irons and radios to lighting circuits. Nowadays they are sold as collectables on eBay because they were made of bakelite.

Richard English says:
19 November 2011

I understand that the voltage in the USA and Canada is only 110V, and therefore the worry about shock is less – but the current is twice as high and so the danger from overheating twice as great. Which happens more often – a fatal electric shock from a luminaire or a problem with overheating?

And I am aware that the adaptors we used to use in the earlier part of the 20th century are now collectables – my question is, why? They did no harm and, even if people were daft enough to try to take out more current than the installation would accept, the worst that could happen was a blown fuse.

I ask again – what was the rationale behind banning those kinds of adaptors?

Speaking with my electrician’s hat on again, I was unaware that bayonet adaptors had actually been banned (I could have missed something but I don’t recall seeing anything to the effect that they were being rendered illegal either for use of for sale).

However, the dangers of using them included the weight of the adaptor plus bulbs potentially being too great for the flexible cord to handle safely, and especially so if another appliance was plugged in and the flex was pulled. Also there is a real risk of fire because whilst Richard may be very diligent about fitting only the correct fuse or fuse wire, or may have a modern installation with a circuit breaker rather than fuses, many people are not and are ignorant of the risk of fire from over-loaded circuits. There are other potential dangers too. For these reasons, and also the simple fact that they were designed to allow the use of portable appliances from a light fitting, rather than two bulbs, and with the number of houses with insufficient sockets now down to a very tiny number this need is now very small, I think they have simply become obsolete by virtue of lack of use.

Anyway, this is seriously off topic, but for Richard’s benefit, if you do wish to get hold of some of these, there are on line shops which sell “new” old stock, there is e-bay as Wavechange suggested and certainly in the Sheffield area there are at least two small, independent, electrical stores that still have a few in stock.

The heating is dependent on power consumed (wattages) and not the current, so the voltage does not matter. Putting two lamps in one luminaire will double the amount of heat but that is not likely to be a problem with CFL or LED lamps.

In the UK were generally used to allow connection of appliances to the lighting circuit rather than for two bulbs. As it became common to have more than one power socket in a room, the need for the adapters disappeared. I don’t believe they were banned, but I may be wrong. I still have 2-way switched bayonet adapter. It is marked ‘Made in England’ which seems rather quaint.

Richard English says:
19 November 2011

1. I tried very hard – online and elsewhere – to find some adaptors. I had no luck at all. If anyone could tell me where they are still made I would be very pleased. If they hadn’t been banned then I am sure they would still be sold since, in the UK as in Canada, there is a need for more than one bulb in a lampholder on occasions.

2. The lower the voltage the higher the amperage needed to provide the wattage. The higher the amperage the heavier the conductor needed. Which is why the cables used in the USA and Canada have far thicker conductors than the cables used in the UK; they carry double the current to provide the same wattage. It is the current that causes the heating, not the voltage. Take a look at the conductors of high-voltage cables the feed the spark plugs in your car at around 10,000 volts and compare them with the conductors of the 12 volt cables that feed the starter motor. Take a look at the fuses in your consumer unit – they are rated in amps, not volts or watts.

3. I am aware that there were also adaptors that allowed the use of appliances – such as electric irons – from a lamp socket. These, also, have disappeared – although I accept that the need for them these days is maybe less than is the need for two-way adaptors.

4. I accept that there is a potential problem with the weight of the additional bulb – but has that problem become worse in the past 40 years? And if it has why has it not become worse in Canada and the USA?

5. The typical 5 amp fuse in house lighting circuits will protect the entire circuit, no matter how many bulbs or adaptors are connected to it. If the circuit is properly designed then the conductors will be able to take a current of considerably more than 5 amps, and once the total number of bulbs (around 12 100 watt bulbs) draws more than 5 amps then the fuse will blow. Of course, if the lampholder pendant flex is rated at far too low an amperage, then I accept that there might be a problem – but what kind of electician is going to be daft enough to wire the pendants in 0.5 amp flex?

I do understand school-level physics, Richard. Unless you have high resistance connections the amount of heat generated by a 100W bulb is going to be the same irrespective of whether it is a 110 or 230V lamp.

Try advertising and I’m sure that you will find suitable adapters, new or old, or take up Dave’s suggestion of checking the shops in Sheffield.

@Richard – I’m afraid you will probably find a great many pendants wired in half-amp flex (or worse) in a great many houses. As I said about fuses and circuit breakers, just because you are careful, or because Wavechange and I know what SHOULD be used, does not, I regret to say, mean that the majority of the population are equally advantaged.

You could try wavechange’s suggestion of replacing with an E27 lamp holder, though there are not many on the market in the UK which are designed for pendant use and it would be very unsafe (as I’m sure you know) to use one that is not designed for a pendant (i.e. does not have a proper cord grip). You will also find that many E27 holders won’t accept “normal” lampshades.

But all this is seriously off-topic: the issue remains that the energy saving bulbs on the market are not fit for (many peoples’) purpose and there needs to be a great deal of pressure exerted upon government and manufacturers to produce and make readily available energy saving lamps that:
Are Reliable
Give Adequate Light
Give LIght At A Colour Temperature That Suits Most USers
Fit Into The Majority Of Light Fittings / Shades

and also to ensure that adequate, free, disposal options are in place nationally.

It is foolhardy in the extreme to encourage anyone, even qualified electricians, to make modifications such as the one we have been discussing in order to “work around” the absence of a suitable range of products to meet demand and if this solution was to become widespread you can guarantee that a plethora of unsafe DIY solutions will spring up, rapidly followed by an increase in house fires and electric shocks.

At the risk of annoying Wavechange I say again that the technology existed in the 1980’s (Philip’s Jam Jars) and so there is no excuse for it not to be available to all now. It’s all politics and profiteering – they are the only two plausible explanations for the situation we are in regarding CFL’s and their alternatives.

Don’t worry about annoying me Dave. I appreciate your input.

I don’t share your enthusiasm for the old Philips ‘jam jars’, though they were an impressive development in the 1980s. They are less efficient than modern CFLs, they did not achieve full brightness any faster than many modern CFLs, the life expectancy was only 5000 hours. I doubt if I achieved that, even though you had more success. Looking at the three examples I have, the colour temperature and spectrum look similar to modern 2700K CFLs. I don’t believe they included power factor correction and they were very heavy, about 650g if my memory serves me correctly. Too heavy to be safely supported by a plastic pendant lampholder in my view.

Good point about safety. Householders either need to know how to do jobs safely or to employ professionals.

Although I’m still disappointed by what is on offer in lighting shops, I have now seen quite a few fixtures suitable for CFLs. One of the key features, in my opinion, is that the base of the lamp should be at the bottom which will help to prevent overheating of the electronics.

I have taken part in a board elsewhere about hot and cold fill washers for about 3 years now.
It occurs to me that the Phillips Jam Jars and our respective likes / displikes for them, are similar to the hot and cold fill washers that were ubiquitous until the 1990’s.

It has been proven by a huge number of contributors to the Washing machine board that 1980’s hot and cold fill washers – using very basic and unscientific technology – was vastly more efficient (in electricity use) than ANY modern, supposedly energy saving, washers, whether cold fill only or hot and cold fill.

It seems to me that a similar thing is true of the Phillips (and possibly some other) 1980’s CFL’s: they may not be The Perfect Solution, but there appears to be some significant evidence that they were far better than *many* currently available, and supposedly better, CFL lamps.

In both cases (washers and lamps) it would be better to have the 1980’s ‘old’ technology on the market rather than being forced to have post-millenium ‘new’ technology which is actually less effective / efficient / useful.

As I posted recently on the Washer board, we seem to be obsessed with having more complex and newer solutions even if that means going backwards in terms of efficiency / effectiveness.

I agree about the weight of the Jam Jars though.

As an aside I was looking at the web sites of B.E.L.L. and Crompton yesterday, and I notice that both sell lamps that look remarkably as if they are the same as the Phillips Jam Jars as OUTDOOR use CFL’s and both state that “unjarred” CFL’s are UNSUITABLE for outdoor use. This could, if it’s true. explain the many experiences people have posted about CFL’s being hopeless in outside lights.

As another aside I also wonder why on earth Which? cfl tests don’t have any B.E.L.L and as far as I recall no Crompton lamps – these are UK based companies – surely Which? would want to support UK companies and therefore the UK economy? Just a thought.

I hate unreliable technology (including incandescent bulbs 🙂 , products that are difficult or expensive to repair, or are unnecessarily complicated. I would be happy to buy a car without electric windows, more so since having two new window regulators fitted to my VW Golf at great cost. Reliability does not seem to be a great selling point, so companies are constantly innovating. If more British companies had done this they might have survived foreign competition.

From what I have read, CFLs will survive longer if used ‘cap down’ and with ventilation, because this avoids overheating the electronic components. CFLs operate best within a fairly narrow temperature range. If it is too cold they will be very dim when first switched on and the life may be short. If too hot the light output will be decreased. These effects are mainly due to variation in the vapour pressure of mercury. CFLs often use mercury amalgam (rather than free mercury) to help maintain a constant vapour pressure despite temperature changes, but this contributes to the low light output when first switched on. (Ordinary fluorescent tubes operate at a much cooler temperature than CFLs so can use free mercury.) CFLs enclosed in a glass envelope are better for outside use because the envelope helps them operate nearer the correct temperature.

For short term use, halogen bulbs (with an outer glass envelope) might be a better option for outside lights. I’m not convinced about the benefit of leaving security lights on all night, since it wastes a lot of power.

Richard English says:
21 November 2011

I am not talking about the heat in the bulb, I am talking about the heat in the conductors. The higher the current the more the heat. See my second paragraph above.

The heat in the bulb will depend on its efficiency; incandescent bulbs, being very inefficient, will generate far more heat than will flourescents – but I never mentioned bulb heat.

I have tried to obtain adaptors in this country – no success, Maybe some long-established shops in Yorkshire might have some old stock – but I haave found no suppliers of modern adaptors. If you can find a manufacturer of such things then I would be please to give it my business.

The simple solution is to replace the lampholder with an E27 screw lampholder and use one of the two-way adapters that are widely available, as you have said. The live should be connected to the centre contact for safety, as Dave has pointed out.

One online supplier even offers a triple E27 adapter.

Richard English says:
22 November 2011

What wavechange suggests is similar to what I have done – although I have not replaced the bayonet lampholder with an ES – I have used a BC to ES adaptor, thus getting around the cord-grip problem. But I certainly have never managed to find two-way adaptors in this country – either ES or bayonet. Had I been able to do so then I’d not have had to buy the things in Canada and bring them back in my hand-baggage. If new two-way (or three-way) adaptors are available in the UK – be they ES or bayonet – I would be very pleased to know where to get them. I spent many an hour online and asking in electrical shops and found nary a single supplier.

I am aware of the polarity situation, which is both an advantage and disadvantage of ES fittings. Indeed, it was suggested to me that one reason why lampholder adaptors (especially those that allowed the use of an appliance, such as an iron, from a lampholder) were phased out was because of the difficulty of ensuring correct polarity. Not a problem with things like lightbulbs, of course, but maybe some modern electronic equipment relies on correct polarity – although I accept that this is less likely to be the case with AC than it would be with DC.

As regards Dave D’s suggestion that some electricians use lower than half-amp pendant flex – I am not able to comment as I have not seen that many installations. But even if they did (contravening the regulations that state that all conductors should be protected by a fuse rated to blow before the conductor overheats), fitting two CFLs instead on one 100W incandescent would not overload the flex current-wise, since two “100W equivalent” CFLs would only be 40 watts (assuming the claims on the packaging are correct) – only around 0.16 amps – far less current than the single incandescent they replace.

Of course, there is an issue with weight – but it would be a pretty shabby installation that couldn’t handle the weight of two CFLs. And if it couldn’t? Then it would fall from the lampholder – it wouldn’t cause a fire due to its being overheated through excess current.

I don’t like the idea of bayonet to ES adapters because there is a 50% chance that they will be fitted in the unsafe way, with the screw rather than the centre connection live. I suggest that you check the polarity and mark the bayonet fitting and adapter with arrows to show the correct alignment.

Many people don’t switch off at the mains when changing a lamp because that turns off other lights. With lamps on two-way circuits it’s difficult to know if the lamp is off and the danger that the switch has been wired in the neutral rather than live conductor.

Overheating is not a problem, as you say, so I don’t understand why you were concerned about current earlier in the discussion.

Richard English says:
22 November 2011

1. The concern about current was not mine, although I responded to it. Dave D wote, “…Also there is a real risk of fire because whilst Richard may be very diligent about fitting only the correct fuse or fuse wire, or may have a modern installation with a circuit breaker rather than fuses, many people are not and are ignorant of the risk of fire from over-loaded circuits….”

2. I agreee, of course, with the polarity problem which is one reason why I do not like Edison Screw fittings; much better is bayonet, where the bulb cap is not a conductor. I have used ES two-way adaptors only because 2-way bayonet adaptors do not seem to be available in the UK.

I have learned a few things from the recent discussions. For example, I had not appreciated that E27 pendant lampholders are rather uncommon in this country despite the fact that there are so many lamps available. It will be interesting to see if manufacturers do make bayonet two-way adapters available in this country, since there is probably a demand.

Richard English says:
23 November 2011

Well, they certainly used to be made – but now you see them only at car boot sales and the like. I do not believe the demand has ever gone away – I suspect the “Regs”. British wiring standards are the highest in the world (and the IEE regulations the oldest in the world) – but sometimes they seem to err too much on the side of safety.

It would be handy to get a comment from someone in the business who has a copy of the latest Regs (or is knowledgeable about them) to see just why bayonet adaptors were phased out.

@ Richard.
As I’ve posted before, I am a qualified Electrician (though that is not what I work at) and I do have the latest regs and have done my exams based on them.
As far as I can see there does not appear to be anything in the 17th Edition to say that these devices must not be used / made / sold, but there is a lot to indiacte that they woudl be far from best practice.

I don’t think, as I posted before, that they have been banned as such, but they may have been rendered obsolete by virtue of lack of demand.

Obviously it’s possible that it’s just simp;y lack of demand – but these adaptors are so cheap to make that I’d have thought that someone would have kept them in UK production. After all, they are in every single Canadian general store that I have ever visited and Canada’s population is far lower than ours.

Mind you, as we have discussed in another site that jas been subject to mentioned here, some manufacturers of washing machine claim that there is no demand for hot and cold fill machines in the UK, whilst supplying them to such sub-tropical countries as Germany.

When I visited Canada I encountered twin-filament incandescent bulbs, which allow the user to have three different brightness levels. I have never seen twin-filament lamps in the UK, except in car tail/brake lamps. There may be a good reason, but I suspect it is just one of the many differences between countries.

I am not an enthusiast of eBay but it certainly helps makes goods available from overseas. I am happy with the brightness of CFLs in my present house but if I need more light when I move home I will consider using adapters.

I can’t say I have ever noticed these in Canada or the USA although I have noticed a greater use of on-lamp dimmer switches. Many US bedside lights have a four-position rotary switch on their lampholders: off, dim, brigher, brightest, off. I didn’t try to check how they worked but I suppose it would be possible to use a twin-filament lamp to do this job – filament 1, filament 2, both filaments.

In fact, in Canada as in the UK, most people are going over to CFLs and I never tried to buy any incandescant bulbs whilst I was there, but I might take a look the next time I visit.

This is how the ‘dimmers’ I saw in Canada did work.

There are CFLs with twin tubes (presumably made to replace twin filament bulbs) but I have not seen them in action.

The introduction of CFLs did little to encourage manufacturers to produce light fixtures designed for CFLs. The phasing out of incandescent bulbs should change this, and also encourage CFL and fixture manufacturers to get together and resolve the problems that we are having to cope with. History will probably record that things were done in the wrong order. 🙂

Well regardless of all these comments I think that energy saving bulbs give out hard cold light and would much prefer the other ones.

If the light it too “cold” then it is probably at too high a colour temperature for your comfort. The solution is simple and it’s the same one that we used to use to soften the light from the old clear incandescent bulbs. Use a lampshade or similar fitting of an appropriate colour temperature.

I am, I confess somewhat surprised to learn that so many people seem to use unshaded lighbulbs these days – almost all of mine are shaded in one way or another.

Many of us are looking forward to what LED lamps have to offer as replacements for incandescent bulbs, though the brighter ones are still expensive.

It would be good to have a Which? Conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of LED lamps.

Just as a little aside / further evidence of the problems with MODERN CFL’s:

A Sylvania “Mini Lynx” 20w CFL which I purchased and fitted in mum’s dining room in 1998, just after dad died, finally gave up last week. I went back to my friendly electrical dealer, from where I had bought it, and asked if he had any more. Oh yes cam the reply: we have loads. No one wants these because they are long – they all want the spirals that don’t last 5 minutes now.

To me this seems to be further evidence of what Wavechange has said more than once: the issue is in trying to make the electronics too compact so they became unreliable. This Mini Lynx is much less compact than the spiral types.

And then this evening I came home and popped the landing light on – Fizz bang, and yet another ProLiite 30w Spiral has blown, this one fitted on 27th August this year, a few days after the last one shattered scattering glass over the stairs. At £4.99 this is not the most expensive CFL by along way but it’s life span is appalling and there can be no question that in barely 3 months it has NOT saved me anything like £5 in electricity, nor even £4.25 which is the approximate price difference between this and a tungsten lamp of equal light output. (I admit that the ProLite is not very compact, so it does run slightly against my other comment about smaller = less reliable.)

There you go.

Hi Dave D, long time since I jumped in. I hope you are taking the lamps back to the supplier and asked them to replace them every time they fail.

That is the only way that device quality and longevity will improve, when the supplier gets hit in the pocket.

Which: You really must do something to stop these poor quality products reach the market, what do you want us to do when it costs us an arm and a leg to light our homes, use bloody candles I suppose!

The CFLs that have served me very well are older types, which may be more durable than modern CFLs. To investigate the reliability of modern CFLs, I have replaced the two that are used most with 950 lumen Tesco spirals. According to the packets, they should last around 8000 hours. I am not too optimistic after reading what others have had to say.

@david ramsey – no, I’m afraid I’ve not been taking them back because although the shop will accept them quite happily, he’s a one-man-business and his suppliers won’t take them, so it’s him that loses out and I don’t think that’s fair on him. If it was the likes of Tesco I’d take them back and kick up a huge stink (though I would never sink low enough to dream of setting foot in a Tesco, but that’s by-the-by) because they can afford the loss and indeed probably have the “clout” to force the suppliers to take the faulty ones back and replace / reimburse.

This is another aspect of the cfl situation that I wish Which? would take seriously and campaign on, because it’s not on that manufacturers supply useless products and get away with it scott-free.

It is rare that I say anything positive about Tesco but they do have very helpful information on their CFL boxes. Those for my 950 lumen spiral CFLs state “Do not use in enclosed fixtures” and “Usage in recessed fixtures could result in reduced product life”. I had intended to use them in small glass lampshades but decided to heed the advice, which I did not read until after purchasing the lamps. Now I am looking for suitable CFLs to replace three 60W golf ball incandescent lamps in my small lampshades, though I think that any that produce sufficient light will overheat and fail prematurely. I will probably have to use halogen lamps, which will save little energy, find lampshades with ventilation holes at the top, or risk premature failure of CFLs.

We’ve published a new Conversation – with 40W and 25W bulbs being banned over the weekend, no incandescents are on sale. Are LEDs the answer to our energy saving prayers? https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/buy-incandescent-light-bulbs-eu-directive-energy-saving-bulbs/

IMy experience of CFL is that they last no longer than the incandescent bulbs did and since CFL use more energy to make, it seems that we might actually be wasting energy instead of saving it overall. We have shifted the energy use from the home to the manufacturer.

Tim might be right about the total energy consumption of CFLs as compared with incandescents and he would certainly be right if his other assertion – that they don’t last any longer – were accurate.

If he is truly getting no more than 1000 hours from his CFLs (or in excess of 10,000 hours from his incandesents) then there is something very wrong with his electrical installation.

It is possible, by under-running an incandescent bulb, to have it last almost forever; in the USA there is a bulb that has been running continuously for 110 years – http://www.centennialbulb.org/ – but nobody would want to live with such a low light level (not much brighter than a candle).

And if his CFLs have been failing at only 1000 hours then his electrical supply must be over-voltage, his fitments must be overheating or he has an intermittent supply that is continually turning his CFLs on and off (if he is using a dimmer switch, say).

I have been using CFLs for nearly 8 years (since I moved into my present home) and only three have failed. The incandescants that were in the house when we arrived all failed within a year and we replaced them with CFLs as they did so. The porch light lasted longest (about a year) obviously because it was only used for brief periods when people were going in and out.

I have experimented with quarz-halogen bulbs in my living room, as I want to dim them – but they cost far more than ordinary incandescants only last for 2000 hours and are only slightly more efficient. So when they last one of those fails, I will be trying some of the new (and rather pricey) LEDs.

At less than 10 watts, with the light equivalent of a 60 watt incandescant, and an estimated life of over 10,000 hours they seem to be a good bet. I will keep everyone posted.

In fact – I built a Dental Clinic years ago that used down lighters as the major illumination – the normal rated incandescent bulbs died very rapidly – I replaced them with higher voltage rating bulbs which ‘never’ died – The light output decreased significantly but the savings was enormous.

I changed to CFL years ago when they were first encouraged about 15 or more years ago – so far only two have blown – so far better than incandescent – though light levels not as good..

Interestingly I used to have to change fluorescent lamps far more rapidly in a factory if they were switched on and off often – It was actually cheaper to leave them on all day – and replace the lot when light levels fell (as they all do over time) – than switch them on and off.